Thursday, April 13, 2000
Grandparents lose custody to
mother of five
By Jerry Reed
Reporter-News Staff Writer
An Abilene couples five young grandchildren
were ordered returned to the temporary custody of their mother
Wednesday in the latest development in a long and controversial
Houston family court Judge Linda Motherall
entered the temporary order in a hearing Wednesday that had been
resumed from last month. Joy Coates is to pick up her five children
next Wednesday. Her sixth and eldest child, 19-year-old Shanna,
had been living with Joy Coates in recent weeks.
The five minor children Amy, Gretta,
Brianna, Isaac and Melissa range in age from 5 to 16.
Custody of the children had been a source
of bitter conflict between the childrens mother and paternal
grandparents, Ed and Jane Coates, for more than 3 1/2 years. At
one point, the mother dropped from sight with her children, until
last Thanksgiving when she and the children were removed by Guatemalan
national police from a remote mountain village in that Central
American nation and returned to the United States.
In Joy Coates absence, Ed and Jane
Coates had won a default judgment granting them custody of their
grandchildren, and Joy Coates was later indicted for interference
with child custody. On her return to the United States from Guatemala,
she was jailed on bonds totaling $3 million and remained in custody
until her bail was reduced to $30,000 in January. Criminal charges
were dismissed in February.
The judges decision left the grandparents
technically as managing conservators of the children, with a June
26 hearing set to check progress in resolving remaining issues
leading to permanently reuniting the children with their mother.
Motherall ordered the parties to continue
negotiations while they review health, education and financial
plans submitted Tuesday by Joy Coates in response to an earlier
On Wednesday evening, Joy Coates said she
plans to home-school her children, who have attended Taylor Elementary
School since December. The quality of previous home-schooling
provided the children had been questioned by the grandparents,
though they said they had nothing against home schooling.
Tom Sanders, Joy Coates attorney,
said the childrens medical and dental needs had been met
in Guatemala, and would continue to be met by their mother.
Joy Coates declined to talk about financial
provision for her children.
Visitation issues also remained to be hammered
Hovering over the Coates case is a pending
U.S. Supreme Court case from Washington state on the issue of
Neal Coates, son of Ed and Jane Coates and
brother-in-law of Joy Coates, said he discounts chances of the
Washington case affecting the Coates family situation because
that states grandparental rights statute, and the case itself,
He is a licensed attorney who teaches at
Abilene Christian University. His father also teaches at ACU,
and his mother is a retired ACU faculty member.
But Houston attorney Warren Cole, who represents
Ed and Jane Coates, said Washington and Texas laws on grandparental
rights are similar, so the high courts decision could well
affect the Coates case.
Ellen Yarrell, a court-appointed attorney
for the five children, said a parents right to her children
is a bedrock constitutional principle, one requiring a high burden
of proof to disturb.
(Joy) and Nathan had an intact marriage
they had an intact family, she said. Unfortunately
for the entire family, he died of cancer in March
Yarrell said Ed and Jane Coates seemed not
to have resolved their own grief over their sons death during
their struggles to find and gain legal custody of their grandchildren.
The couple spent more than $200,000 on the investigation that
led to the discovery of the six children after 3¤ years.
She said she does not believe Joy Coates
made a good decision in disappearing with her children in 1996
while a petition seeking guaranteed grandparental visitation was
pending in court. But, she added, she doesnt believe that
decision legally justified a Harris County Court in granting custody
by default after Ed and Jane Coates amended their petition.
She said it immediately became obvious to
her when she met the family that each one of those children
want to be with their mother.
After Wednesdays hearing, Ed Coates
said he and his wife are pleased with the courts action.
The children will not be hidden. We
feel that we understand what their immediate future will be,
Neal Coates quoted his father as saying after the hearing.
Since February, the couple has allowed Joy
Coates, daughter of Grady Jolly of Abilene, to have several unsupervised
weekend visits with the children in Abilene. Also during that
time, Joy Coates has rented and furnished a house in Katy, a suburb
on the west side of Houston.
Neal Coates said his parents were glad that
Joy had settled in Katy.
They do not want to keep these children
away from their mom, he said.
Neal Coates said he believes that his extended
family and Joy are now working toward reconciliation.
He said his parents are very thankful to
their fellow church members and the staff at Taylor Elementary
School, who welcomed the five children and helped them greatly.
He also said several people helped his sister-in-law find a house
Joy Coates attributed the pending return
of her children to prayers offered by people all over the world
in her behalf. Some of them had kept abreast of her situation
by e-mail and on an Internet Web site devoted to the case.
God is the one who is to be honored
in all this, she said. I am a very unimportant
and insignificant person. I want to give all the credit to him.
Contact Jerry Reed at 676-6769 or email@example.com.
Abilene Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps Publications